A Conversation About Bullying

Phoebie’s school bus pulled up to the drive way and the moment the door opened, the school bus attendant told me that two boys had bullied Phoebie on the bus. She moved Phoebie to a different seat when she saw Phoebie crying and told the caregivers of the boys about the incident when the boys alighted the bus. 

What surprised me was when the school bus attendant told me that Phoebie told her not to tell me because Phoebie had already forgiven the two boys. While I was proud that Phoebie could forgive so quickly, I found it odd that she told the school bus attendant not to tell me about the incident.

As we walked home, I asked Phoebie about what happened. She said that the two boys had smacked her and pulled her hair. When the bus attendant heard her crying, Phoebie was moved to another seat. The bus attendant reprimanded the boys for what they did. Then I asked, “Aunty said that you have forgiven them. Is it true?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Is it also true that you told Aunty not to tell me about this?” I continued to probe.

“Yes,” she said again.

“Why did you tell Aunty not to tell me?”

“Because Bob (not his real name) said that he was sorry,” she said. I thought that sounded great. “And he said that he will give me a present if I don’t tell you,” she continued.

So it turned out that Phoebie was bought over by the promise of a gift if she didn’t tell me! It was obvious that Bob knew he was in trouble and wanted to try and hide what he had done from the parents.

I knew that I had to talk to Phoebie about bullies there and then.

“Phoebie,” I started, “What Bob and Jason (not his real name) did to you was wrong. They pulled your hair and smacked you, so they were bullying you. I’m glad that Aunty heard you crying and moved you away. Aunty did the right thing by telling their parents about what they did. I think it’s really nice of you to forgive them so quickly too. But you do not forgive someone just because he promised to give you a present. You only forgive when you really feel that you are okay with that person again.” I tried to explain.

“At the same time, you do not agree or promise not to tell me or Papa about what happened because Bob promised to give you a present. What if someone kills me and tells you not to call the police and say they will give you a present? Is that okay?” That was an extreme example but it was the first thing I could think of.

“Cannot. I must still call the police,” Phoebie answered.

“That’s right. You must remember that Papa and Mama are always here for you. If anyone does nasty things to you, tell us about it. And it doesn’t matter how old you are. If you are in primary school, we are still here for you. If you are in secondary school, we are still here for you. If there is something we can do about the people who bully you, we will do it. Like for Bob and Jason, I can tell your teacher so that she can talk to them. They also need to learn that bullying is wrong.” I told Phoebie.

“If there is nothing we can do about the bully, at least we can support you and tell you that we will try our best to help you. You understand?” I asked Phoebie. She nodded.

“When someone bullies you like what happened today, if you are in the school bus, the first person you should ask for help is the bus Aunty. She can come and save you. When you get home, you tell Mama and Papa what happened. If you are in school, the first person you tell is your class teacher. When you get home, you tell us,” I told Phoebie. I got her to repeat these instructions to me to make sure she knew what to do.

“Now, how did you feel when Bob and Jason bullied you in the bus?” I asked Phoebie.

“It didn’t feel good. I was very upset,” she answered.

“It’s not nice to be bullied, right?” I asked her. She nodded.

“So remember this and know that you also shouldn’t do this to your friends, because it is not nice to be bullied,” I told her. 

I have a feeling that this won’t be the last time we have such a conversation, but I just hope that Phoebie remembers that she should always feel safe to talk to us about such incidents, that she shouldn’t be bought over by promises of gifts and that she should not be a bully too.

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